Procedural Fairness/Tameside Duty

April 18th, 2019 by James Goudie KC

When a decision-maker is minded to make a decision adverse to someone on the basis of their dishonesty or other reprehensible conduct he is required as a matter of procedural fairness to indicate that suspicion clearly and give the applicant an opportunity to respond. This principle has been reaffirmed in Balajigari v SSHD (2019) EWCA Civ 673, from paragraph 46, where the Court of Appeal said:-

“46.    … the question of whether there has been procedural fairness or not is an objective question for the court to decide for itself. The question is not whether the decision-maker has acted reasonably, still less whether there was some fault on the part of the public authority concerned.”

“59.    … although sometimes the duty to act fairly may not require a fair process to be followed before a decision is reached … fairness will usually require that to be done where that is feasible for practical and other reasons. …

  1. This leads to the proposition that, unless the circumstances of a particular case make this impracticable, the ability to make representations only after a decision has been taken will usually be insufficient to satisfy the demands of common law procedural fairness. The rationale for this proposition lies in the underlying reasons for having procedural fairness in the first place. It is conducive to better decision-making because it ensures that the decision-maker is fully informed at a point when a decision is still at a formative stage. It also shows respect for the individual whose interests are affected, who will know that they have had the opportunity to influence a decision before it is made. Another rationale is no doubt that, if a decision has already been made, human nature being what it is, the decision-maker may unconsciously and in good faith tend to be defensive over the decision to which he or she has previously come. …”

As regards the Tameside duty, the Court of Appeal said:-

“70.    The general principles on the Tameside duty were summarised by Haddon-Cave J in R (Plantagenet Alliance Ltd) v Secretary of State for Justice [2014] EWHC 1662 (Admin) at paras. 99-100. In that passage, having referred to the speech of Lord Diplock in Tameside, Haddon-Cave J summarised the relevant principles which are to be derived from authorities since Tameside itself as follows. First, the obligation on the decision-maker is only to take such steps to inform himself as are reasonable. Secondly, subject to a Wednesbury challenge, it is for the public body and not the court to decide upon the manner and intensity of enquiry to be undertaken: … Thirdly, the court should not intervene merely because it considers that further enquiries would have been sensible or desirable. It should intervene only if no reasonable authority could have been satisfied on the basis of the enquiries made that it possessed the information necessary for its decision. Fourthly, the court should establish what material was before the authority and should only strike down a decision not to make further enquiries if no reasonable authority possessed of that material could suppose that the enquiries they had made were sufficient. Fifthly, the principle that the decision-maker must call his own attention to considerations relevant to his decision, a duty which in practice may require him to consult outside bodies with a particular knowledge or involvement in the case, does not spring from a duty of procedural fairness to the applicant but rather from the … duty so to inform himself as to arrive at a rational conclusion. Sixthly, the wider the discretion conferred …  the more important it must be that he has all the relevant material to enable him properly to exercise it.”

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